Pubdate: Thu, 21 Apr 2005
Source: Montgomery Advertiser (AL)
Copyright: 2005 The Advertiser Co.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Note: Letters from the newspaper's circulation area receive publishing priority


The medical use of marijuana is a ticklish subject in a state with 
notoriously harsh drug laws. Surely, however, there is a strong case to be 
made for taking the side of compassion and allowing closely regulated use 
of marijuana for medical purposes rather than rigidly making its use and 
possession a crime in all cases.

There is plenty of medical evidence that some maladies, involving some that 
involve chronic pain, respond better to marijuana than to conventional 
pharmaceuticals. There is also plenty of concern that allowing the medical 
use of marijuana would undercut the anti-drug messages aimed at youth.

"If the medical community makes a statement that this should be used to 
treat a certain illness, then that gives credibility to a drug that is 
mind-altering and would be abused," said Dr. Marsha Raulerson, president of 
the Alabama chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Others in the medical community contend the benefits to patients outweigh 
any such risks. Dr. Michael Saag, professor of medicine at the University 
of Alabama at Birmingham and director of the AIDS center there, says the 
blanket ban on marijuana use is "anachronistic" and reflects a century-old 
view of marijuana as having no possible useful purpose.

There are some obvious concerns with creating a lawful use for an unlawful 
substance, but House Bill 703 by Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, appears to 
address them in a responsible manner.

It would allow medical use of marijuana upon diagnosis by a doctor "in the 
course of a bona fide physician-patient relationship" that the patient has 
"a debilitating medical condition and the potential benefits of the medical 
use of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks for the qualifying 
patient." The Department of Public Health would issue an identification 
card for the qualifying patient.

Concerns about possible abuse cannot be discounted. At the same time, it is 
hard to argue against alleviating the suffering of people for whom 
conventional pharmaceuticals are not effective. Striking the balance 
between compassion and proper protection from criminal drug activity is a 
tricky challenge.
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